Inspiration, Television, Writing

Laughter and Love in the Writing Room

I’m struggling a bit with the first draft of one of the books I’m writing this year. The story is meant to be lighter in tone than those I’ve written previously, which means I have to stop myself from delving too deeply into the dark side of my characters. But I entertain myself exploring that off page.

The main character in this novel is Chelsea, who’s twenty-three but having a hard time moving into adulthood. I’m long past that age. At twenty-three, I was married and the mother of two. So even if I could remember my thoughts and feelings back then, they would bear little resemblance to hers.

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But I know how to research. I’ve done a good portion of that by reading books and watching movies and TV series featuring characters who are young, single, and funny—and looking for love, of course. Life is all about our relationships.

You might recognize the photo accompanying this post. I’ve recently discovered New Girl. Yes, I know it’s been on the air for three seasons, but I don’t watch much TV and when I do it’s usually drama. Yes, I know the characters in New Girl are in their thirties, but they’re still single and immature and funny. And the show is many years more current than Friends.

Via Netflix, I watch a couple of episodes a night before I fall asleep. So far, that hasn’t inspired any dreams directly related to my book’s plot, but I’m sure my Muse is paying attention.  Plus, laughter is good medicine, which helps with my chronic pain.  And that describes what I’m writing—a little light pushing back the darkness.

I wish you a week filled with laughter and love.

Linda

Characters, Inspiration, Narrative, Television, Writing

My love affair with AMC … mostly!

Once upon a time—or maybe more—I’ve blogged about the TV programs I watch, and I questioned why they’re all dramas. Sometimes late at night I watch old sitcoms, some from the 70s, but none current. I don’t know why. Anyway, today I’m sharing thoughts on a few of my current favorite dramas—and four of the five air on AMC.

Photo credit: ellenm1 / Foter / CC BY
Photo credit: ellenm1 / Foter / CC BY

I’m excited because the final episodes of Breaking Bad will air on AMC soon. I came late to the series and watched all four and a half seasons in two weeks this past winter. I’ve rewatched some episodes and I’ll  read the recaps of the others to refresh my memory before the last eight episodes air. Right now, I want Hank to bring down Walt and something good to happen for Jesse. And I still miss that villain extraordinaire, Gus.

Another show I came late to view is The Killing. I caught up on the first two seasons just as the third started airing. The writing and acting in the first two seasons was excellent, so it shocked me to learn that AMC had announced last summer they would not renew the show for a third season. Luckily, they changed their mind when Netflix bid to take it over. Emotionally damaged detectives Linden and Holder are amazing to watch.

Speaking of Netflix, they experimented by debuting the entire first season of their original series, House of Cards, at once. It was a big hit in our house. My husband and I binge watched, and now we bemoan the wait for the second season. The writing and acting is top notch. Francis Underwood has not done a single thing to inspire my faith in politics, though.

I believe I’ve told you before that I’m a fan of Mad Men, also on AMC, and though I couldn’t connect fully with this sixth season, I think that was my problem. The quality has never disappointed me, so I expect to appreciate this season more in retrospect. I’m beginning to think Don Draper is a cat—which of his nine lives will he be on next season? So many characters to love and hate—sometimes simultaneously. But that makes good drama, no?

My AMC guilty pleasure is Walking Dead. I can’t quite believe I’m watching a show about zombies, but there you go. Not a spoof or dramedy, this is a frightening and complicated tale as Rick and his tribe struggle to survive both the zombies and the psychopathic Governor. And three main characters were killed in last season’s finale! Actually, I guess I don’t feel guilt for watching it. I’m looking forward to October and finding out where the writers take the story next.

Two things these shows have in common are good writing and good acting. I think a lot about the writing, of course. Actors are inspired to do their best when they’re presented with good writing just as fictional characters are developed fully by well-written narrative.

I probably won’t ever write about drug dealers, homicide cops, politics, the 60s advertising business, or a zombie apocalypse, but drama is drama. I’m learning while I watch. As I prepare to start my next novel, I visualize my characters acting out their drama, but they’re only ghosts of who they’ll become when I flesh them out with narrative.

I can hardly wait to type The End.

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Fiction, Reader, Television, Writing

The Role of the Storyteller

I watch Harry’s Law, partly because the character Harriett (Harry) Corn is not young and whip thin. She’s a criminal defense lawyer, who also owns the shoe store on the street level of her building, and is feisty as all get out. Sure, the story lines often stray from reality—no, on second thought, they’re probably as real as the scripted shows disguised as reality TV.

Anyway, I’m particularly glad I watched this week. One of the two cases in the episode concerned a British man under threat of extradition for a crime he’d committed twenty years earlier. In the years since, he’d moved to Cincinnati and bought a tea shop in a depressed neighborhood where he entertained his customers with tall tales.

Many of these customers came to court and testified in the shop owner’s behalf, saying how much he’d enriched their lives with his stories. In a moving defense to the judge, one of Harry’s associates illustrated how the man provided a humanitarian service to his community. He pointed out that the shop owner had taken his customers to places they’d never be able to go, given them adventures they’d never experience, made them laugh and given them hope.

I took that to heart. Since I published The Brevity of Roses, a  few people  have insinuated the book was beneath them, it was only a love story, fiction for the masses. Yeah. It’s fiction for real people. I won’t apologize for that. I’m real people. I won’t apologize for that either. I’m proud that I told my story to so many who let me know they liked it—loved it, even—and I’m happy I could transport them out of their life and into my imaginary world for a few hours.

So, I raise my cup to all the storytellers who’ve enriched my life. How small it would be without them. Won’t you join me?

Block, Critique, Doubt, Fiction, Novel, Television, Writing

AWAKE, but not writing

Well, I missed a blogging day, but for once, when I had nothing worth saying I didn’t say anything. I also didn’t get much house cleaning done. I did some laundry, repotted a few plants, worked on the sprinkler system in the yard, and organized some craft supplies. I also started reading a NY Times best-selling novel, but the subpar writing and editing makes me question whether I should continue.

What I’d hoped would happen during my writing break hasn’t. Not really. What did occur to me, at one point while my hands were covered in soil, is once again I’ve fallen into the trap of worrying about what others will think of the story in my next novel. Is that why I’m stalled?

I said at the beginning that I wanted to write this novel without any outside input, so I wouldn’t submit chapters to any critique group until they were all written, but it seems I’m critiquing it myself. I’m censoring before I’ve even written it. If only I could write without knowing what I’m writing. *sigh*

Speaking of writing, as I usually am, there’s some good writing on the new NBC series Awake. I’ve blogged before about some of my favorite well-written shows like Treme and Mad Men. This new one promises to be another. The premise of reality vs. dream intrigues me; in fact, I touched on it in a short story I wrote last summer.

Police detective Michael Britten, played by Jason Isaacs, has returned to work after an auto accident with his wife and teen-aged son. The problem is each day he wakes up in one of two “realities”. In one, his son died in the crash, Britten is in department-ordered therapy with a male psychiatrist, and he has a rookie partner at work. In the other, his wife has died, he has a female therapist, and his long-time partner at work.

A further confusion happens when clues from a case in one reality helps him solve his case in the other. Each therapist tells him he’s confusing dream and reality because he hasn’t coped with his loss. Britten doesn’t want their help because he doesn’t want to lose either of his “realities”.

I’m anxious to see how this plays out. When the end credits rolled on the first episode, I said, “Wow!” My husband said, “It was okay.” That’s typical for us. 🙂 Then again, he’s not a writer. If you’re not watching the show, but think it sounds interesting, you can watch full episodes online here: http://www.nbc.com/awake/


Awake promo photo ©NBC

Opinion, Real Life, Television

I’m not ashamed to admit it

As long as I’m in this drop the pretenses mood, I might as well confess to something else. I watch television. Yes, I know some circles consider television to be for low-brows. I’ve picked up this disdain from some writers—serious literary sorts. Ah well. I never claimed to be an intellectual.

Okay, okay. I’ve been known to watch a few documentaries. And I might have caught a PBS and/or BBC mini-series or two.

Really, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t watch a lot of television. I spend a lot more time in front of this computer. A lot. But there are a few shows I try to catch.

I’ve mentioned The Sopranos, The Wire, Big Love and Lost as some of my past faves. I also enjoyed Men of a Certain Age, before they cancelled it. I can’t wait for the next seasons of the top-notch series Treme and Mad Men.

Currently, I’m watching Boardwalk Empire, but this season it’s become too fascinated with the bloody and gruesome, and that’s annoying me. Two new shows I’m watching this season are Person of Interest and American Horror Story. Those two, The Mentalist and Harry’s Law I’ll classify as guilty pleasures.

I’ve learned aspects of story structure and characterization from the excellent writing of some programs. They teach while they entertain. The others mostly just entertain, but what’s wrong with that? Say what you will. My forehead is still pretty high.

So. I have to ask. Do you watch television?